Monday, April 30, 2007

Robert Webber - We Will Miss You

I wish I had had the opportunity to know this man as deeply as several of my friends knew him. That is my loss. Read about his life and contribution below.

After a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, Dr. Robert Webber died Friday night.

Dr. Webber was widely considered one of the foremost authorities on worship renewal and ancient-future worship. He was the founder of the Institute in Worship Studies and a professor at Northern Baptist Seminary. He was also a regular contributor to numerous magazines, journals and newspapers and previously taught at Wheaton College for 32 years.

Dr. Webber was also the author of over 40 books on worship and the Church, including Worship is a Verb: Eight Principles For Transforming Worship, The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Ancient-Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community-How can evangelism produce not only converts but also disciples who grow in faith and become active members of the church?, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World, Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture of the Church, Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World-Current concerns focus on how worship and spirituality bring vitality to the church in postmodern culture, Renew Your Worship!...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Prom - What A Mystery!

Last night was the Junior/Senior Prom for Matt. What a mystery.

Where else do you spend that kind of money, dress up in clothes for which you spent too much money either in the form of a purchase that will never be used again or in the form of a rental that you enjoyed for one very, very long evening.

Where else do you stand around with people taking hundreds of pictures of you and your friends, then you get into a limo that cost a fortune to take you to a place for dinner that costs another fortune, then you finally get to the location of the prom where everything is carefully organized, and you do whatever you do at a prom, then in this case, you board the General Jackson for a "cruise" on the Cumberland until 2:00am in the morning!!!!

THEN, the "experience" is not over - you have to go to yet another person's home for yet another party connected to prom night, and finally you arrive at yet another's friends house at 8:00am to FINALLY go to sleep?

You sleep for 3 hours, then you come home before you have to go return your expensive rental tuxedo, then go to work from 3:00pm - 8:00pm.

Wow - what a weekend....

A friend told me that Prom is a "rite of passage". Not sure what that means, but I just know that I have (3) more of these to do before I am "done".

There is something strange about going to sleep knowing your 17-year old is out and not at home in his bed where he belongs, and worse - will be "out" ALL NIGHT.....

It's not about me worrying about him - it's about all the other crazy people who are "out" all night, and who knows what "state" they are in......

It does make me wonder how this whole "prom thing" got started and evolved to what it has now become.....??????

at any rate - I believe a fun time was had by all!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Do You Know Who You Just Walked By?

I read this amazing article on the newly discovered (for me) and wonderful blog of JOSH HARRIS

The Washington Post pulled off a very intriguing feat. They asked one of the world's greatest violinists to play one of the world's finest violins in the middle of rush hour at a downtown Metro station. It was an experiment of sorts. They wanted to see how many people would take note of the incredible music being played and stop to listen. Outside of the context of a concert hall, and with world-renown musician Joshua Bell disguised in a baseball cap would people realize what their ears were being treated to?

The full story is worth reading. And it's fascinating to watch the video footage that shows the response. In brief, hardly anyone noticed or took the time to stop and listen.

Be sure to pay close attention to the incredible article - there are some most amazing statements made - I know I will ponder them for some time.....

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Singing of Hymns

Alison Krauss

This weekend brought two experiences that I will not soon forget, if ever.

Almost two years ago, my friend, Billy Ray Hearn approached David Hamilton and myself about this idea he had to do a "Hymn-Sing" with the Nashville Symphony in the new $126 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville.

Well, his dream came true this past Friday and Sunday night, and oh what an evening (of the worship of God through the singing of some of the greatest hymns ever writen) both nights were.

(To read more about the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, scroll down on the right panel of my blog to Archives and click on May 2006 and find my entry dated May 11, 2006)

Billy Ray insisted that the evening be about the singing of these great hymns. I want to believe his wish was accomplished in grand style and with great fervor. The balance of some fantastic guest artists singing a great hymn, along with the amazing Nashville Symphony playing some of the most gorgeous hymn arrangements ever penned by both Ronn Huff and conductor, David Hamilton (including an orchestration by one of our church orchestra members, David Shipps!) allowed the evening to flow smoothly.

Steven Curtis Chapman served as a "down home" host for the evening, and when he sang "Fairest Lord Jesus" with his guitar and sang the words, "that makes the woeful heart to sing" - I just about lost it.......and that was only the 4th song of the evening. CeCe Winans singing "Blessed Assurance", the Fisk Jubileee Singers singing two spirituals, Steve Green singing "What Wondrous Love Is This" (on Friday night), then David Phelps singing it on Sunday night, followed by everyone singing "It Is Well With My Soul" acappella, then Alison Krauss came out and humbly and graciously offered her rendition of "Be Thou My Vision"

Last night, I was able to take my entire family including my mother and father-in-law, and we got to sit in a box literally over-looking the stage. My son, Ben was amazed watching the (6) arco players right below him (he could have reached out and touched them!), Seth was stunned by vs.3 of David Hamilton's movie-score-sounding version of "A Mighty Fortress", and then maybe the most moving experience I have had in some time was to sit next to my 17-year old "jock" son as he sang EVERY lyric to EVERY hymn we sang all evening.

I have pondered that all the way home last night, after I got home from the event, and this morning as well. How is that? How is it that a teenage young man would know these hymns and be willing to sing them aloud (especially sitting in a box perched above the stage where EVERYONE can watch you!)? I so want to believe that he has paid attention in worship for these past 10-11 years or so that he has sat in the balcony with his friends. I want to believe that the years of kids choirs where wonderful teachers and helpers taught him that these hymns are as important to him as learning Math, History, and English.......

I don't wish to take any credit here - I only rejoice that I got to sit next to him and listen......that I got to experience with my family the joy of worshipping God in the singing of these gems of theology........and I got to do that in a room that was designed for people to appreciate (and yes even sometimes "worship") great music!

This past Friday night and Sunday night, we heard some of the greatest music ever written, and yes we appreciated it, but I pray we were more overwhelmed and appreciative of the Creator of that great music - I know I was.......

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Top Ten Questions - 24

Just for fun - here are my questions/comments as we enter ?? hour of this season's episodes. Which, by the way, what hour are we in anyway?

Oh well - have some fun with me.....

1. What's up with Milo?
2. Is Doyle good or bad?
3. Is Tom Lennox good or bad?
4. Who's the next president after yet another Palmer dies?
5. Did I really say that Wayne Palmer will die?
6. What's up with the President's sister's friend in the hospital? Is that related to anything significant?
7. Is VP Daniels really as bad as we want him to be?
8. Please bring on more of Aaron Pierce!
9. You didn't really believe Audrey was dead, did you?
10. Where the heck is Jack's Dad?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter - Alan Jackson - My Boys

I'm not sure why, but it did not feel like Easter today.

Maybe it being 24 degrees with frost on the car when Karla and I left for church at 5:45am had something to do with it.

Maybe it was the strange fact that today Karla and I drove to church together for the first time in 14 years! We NEVER get that opportunity.

Maybe it was the fairly insignificant fact that Alan Jackson (country superstar) came to our second service.

One would think that after living in Nashville for 27 years, when people of particular fame and/or notoriety show up at church, it would/should be no big deal, but I still find it - that these people brave the awkwardness of being around a bunch of people and NOT be the center of attention, and two - decide that they want to come to our church. I'm glad I'm not famous.

I do know that Easter worship was meaningful, and we did our best to honor God.

I also know that I got to enjoy my sons today after church. It's not that often that I get them "all to myself", and it just happened that we all left church together to go to our friends house for lunch.

So, I convinced these crazy guys to pose for this photo. They bring ridiculous joy to my life!

P.S. You gotta love the QUIET sign that Ben is holding - we had these made for the back hallways where the choir/orchestra were "hanging out" during the services when we were not leading.....

Thursday, April 05, 2007


A month ago, Karla and I were browsing in one of our favorite places - the bookstore on the campus of The University of the South - Sewanee University in Monteagle/Sewannee. I ran across a new magazine (new to me) called GOOD

In the March/April issue, there is the following article, and I just think this is simply amazing - see if you agree!

The PlayPumps Water System performs modern-day alchemy, converting the energy of children cavorting on a simple playground merry-go-round into clean water. As children spin, the system pumps water from an underground well into a 25-foot-high storage tank. Instead of the time-consuming task of hauling water, villagers need only turn a tap.

Co-founder Trevor Field has even combined the brilliant engineering of the pump with a dash of commercialism: Each 650-gallon tank sports four billboards, two for advertising and two for public-health messages. PlayPumps International raises the $14,000 for each system's equipment and set-up costs. Ad revenues then pay for upkeep. One South African school principal has certainly noticed the difference a PlayPump brings: Now "learners can drink, a nutrition program is carried out with ease, our classrooms and toilets are clean," he wrote. "And we have just planted new trees."

There are now 700 PlayPumps scattered across southern Africa, and last year the U.S. government and several private foundations invested $16.4 million in the project - one-quarter of the money needed to reach a goal of 4,000 pumps by 2010, which would provide clean water to 10 million people in 10 countries across the continent. "It's estimated that a child dies every 15 seconds from diseases related to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation," says PlayPumps' president, Jill Rademacher. "The water crisis is something we can't ignore."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mission Trips and Blood Loss

Certainly a lot has been going on in my life since my last entry. Preparing to lead this wonderful team (pictured above) to Cape Town, South Africa has occupied most of my time, energy, and resource. In spite of my physical condition (more on that later), I would go back again very, very soon - probably……

God assembled this amazing team of individuals and allowed Karla and myself to lead them. This whole adventure began in February 2004 when we first met John and Avril Thomas. As they shared their hearts for developing Christian musicians in Cape Town and working in conjunction with their Christian radio station, we knew we had to do something - not because they necessarily needed what we had to offer, but because they wholeheartedly welcomed anyone who would offer themselves to encourage and help them develop their own gifts and talents.

We began making plans to bring a team of (for lack of a better term) “music specialists” to them to offer workshops and other training opportunities. In March 2005, we took our first team, and they evidently were pleased enough to invite us back this March.

Another part of this story began to unfold in the summer of 2004 when Karla and I made our first trip to Cape Town to simply “check things out”. During that visit, I met with the leadership of the Masiphulmelele Baptist Church Choir. This tiny church is in the middle of a township of severe poverty and HIV. This church is simply amazing, and the choir - well, they astound me. I have never met (22) young people more passionate, more committed, and make as much sound unto the Lord as these folks do. We were thrilled at the possibility of making a new recording for these wonderful people. So, part of our most recent trip was to do just that, and oh what a recording they made!

Let me back up to last year to tell this story because it just shows you once again how God works and how it connects back to the Masi Choir. I invited Jeromy Deibler (lead singer for the group, FFH) to go on last year’s trip. He agreed, and just before we left, he introduced me to his friend, Robert Beeson (who grew up in South Africa) and he was about to leave Essential Records to form his own label. As I began telling Robert about the Masi Choir, he began to express interest in them, and then asked his good friend, Steve Hindalong (producer of the award-winning, best-selling “City On A Hill” CD) to get involved. Steve was initially reluctant, but wanted to go to Cape Town to see what this whole thing was about. (Steve is the one in the red shirt - 5th from the right in the photo). I wish you could have watched this man work with this choir. What a blessing to sit and behold the producer allowing the creation to unfold and happen before him and “let it be”! He was encourager, cheer-leader, prompter, listener, teacher, player (he played his drum with them), and even the dancer!

So, now we return to America with this recording of this choir, and we wait to see what God wants next. We promised this choir we would make a recording of them, and we have done that, so if we only assemble the songs and moments onto a master CD and give it to them to duplicate and manufacture, then that would be OK. Somehow, we all believe there is more to it than that. Because of Robert Beeson’s vision and that of John Thomas, and now with Steve Hindalong on board, we believe there might be other artists who capture this same vision for raising the awareness of the work of this wonderful Masi Choir + the work of John and Avril through their Living Hope Ministries, and make this CD something much bigger and grander than any of us might have imagined.

I must admit that I have never had the honor and privilege of being a part of something that is substantially bigger than all of the people involved in it, but this might be it. I pray that it would be it. I have so loved being involved in my own very small way in something that I am absolutely convinced does not depend on my opinion and my input in order for God to accomplish something incredible in and through this project. In fact, everyone involved (at least to my knowledge) wants the same thing, and tell me how rare that is in this day of music business-driven egos, politics, and maneuvering!

I have tons of video footage to review, label, and give to Robert and Steve so they can see what took place two weeks ago 10,000 miles from here as we connected in deep and extraordinary ways with these (22) people.

In the midst of this uncontainable joy, I hate to admit this, but I had a horrible week when I returned from South Africa. Karla tried to warn all of the team that “re-entering” into our regular worlds and routines would be difficult. I agreed, but ignored the warning signs. I blistered back into a ruthless pace, and crashed and burned big-time last Thursday night. When will I learn? Ulcers, kidney stones, heart and other stomach issues……all of these things resulting in way too regular trips to the ER and days spent in a hospital bed are becoming all too familiar, and I know I must do something about it.

I have lost blood in my system since December. I have more tests next week to determine why. In the meantime, I am doing this week what I should have done last week - rest, take things much more easily and slowly - function at a more reasonable pace - and I am finding this is more about my mental/emotional state than my physical state……and it is refreshing, but hard. Why is that?

People have asked me if the trip to South Africa did this to me. My answer is without question, “no way”. If anything, returning did this to me. I love South Africa. I was at total peace in every situation while I was there - no, we did not go there to intentionally win souls to Jesus, build homes, offer medical relief, or any of the other very important and most popular reasons people go on mission trips, but we did encourage and inspire fellow believers to use their gifts to help bring more glory to God through their music - we brought hope to (22) young people whose lives are often more hopeless than hopeful…….. I got to be a part of that, and I wonder what is so different about ministry in Cape Town from ministry in Brentwood or Franklin?

I will ponder that in these days ahead and months ahead as I determine where God wants me to be so that I can be most effective for His Kingdom - I know this - I am of little use to Him and His Kingdom with a weak and weary body and a worry-filled mind…….